Profiles in Heart Disease: Drew Carey

What factors led to the comic's 2001 operation?

Drew Carey
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Comedic heavyweight Drew Carey has provided fans with plenty of laughter over the years, but the funnyman's brush with heart disease was no laughing matter. In August of 2001, one day after experiencing chest pain and tingling in his arms and shoulders, Carey felt the same pain return while on the Warner Brothers set of his television show, "The Drew Carey Show." Paramedics arrived at the then 240-pound star's trailer and rushed him to St.

Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank, Calif.

A Heart Attack Waiting to Happen

What Carey experienced was not a heart attack. Instead, the pain was caused by one of his arteries that was about 95 percent blocked. According to Dr. Daniel Eisenberg, a cardiac specialist who treated Carey, "Drew was clearly a heart attack waiting to happen."

Carey often made jokes about his obesity, lack of exercise and fat-laden diet, all of which contributed to his heart condition.

"He is clearly the average American in terms of his risk," Dr. Eisenberg said. Carey's family also has a history of heart disease. His father died from a heart attack in his forties.

In cases such as Carey's, where severe chest pain is caused by a lack of oxygen to the heart, an angioplasty is considered the treatment of choice. Angioplasty involves the use of a small surgical balloon to widen the blocked artery. A stent - a tiny, tube-like mesh - is then inserted into the artery to keep it from closing up again following the angioplasty.

For some patients, medication that lowers cholesterol levels may also be used.

Carey's Operation

Fortunately Carey's operation was a success, and the comic was able to return to work a week later. This isn't an uncommon outcome amongst heart disease patients. Dick Cheney, who had a similar operation in March of 2001, resumed his vice presidential duties the next day.

Following the surgery, Carey amended his lifestyle. He began exercising regularly and  completely overhauled his diet, eating low-fat foods, such as brown rice and vegetables, and switching out sugary drinks for water.

"I could still eat a cheeseburger if I wanted to," Carey said. "I just can't have them every day."

Continued Weight Loss

Carey dropped 40 pounds after his surgery, but he continued to struggle with weight. "The Price Is Right" host decided enough was enough in January of 2010 when he tipped the scales at 262 pounds. Between January and July of that year, Carey dropped a whopping 80 pounds and was able to go off of his type 2 diabetes medication. Since then, Carey's been able to keep the weight off, resulting in a true transformation.


"Drew Carey." The Internet Movie Database. 2008. 22 Dec. 2008

"Drew Carey: A New Lifestyle." 14 Nov. 2001. ABC News. 22 Dec 2008

"Drew Carey puts angioplasty in the headlines." 14 Aug. 2001. USA Today. 22 Dec. 2008